Military history


Vae, Caesar

I was left with one simple conclusion: General MacArthur was ready to risk general war. I was not.

— Harry S. Truman, President of the United States.

THE FIRST WEEKS after the massive Chinese intervention in Korea were a time of crisis not only upon the frozen battlefields of that tragic peninsula but in virtually every chancellery in the world. In New York the United Nations was a ferment of agony, doubt, and indecision. U.N. delegates, as reported by the New York Times, refused to be quoted officially, but now sudden doubt was expressed over future United States policy.

The Truman press statement of 30 November 1950 brought things swiftly to a head. Truman, while making a temperate statement, in response to a reporter's question, touched upon the sorest nerve of the mid-century. As reported in the Times, Truman said:

"'Recent developments in Korea confront the world with a serious crisis… we have committed ourselves to the cause of a just and peaceful world order through the United Nations. We stand by that commitment.

"'We shall meet the new situation in three ways. We shall continue to work in the United Nations for concerted action to halt the aggression in Korea. We shall intensify our efforts to help other free nations to strengthen their defense … we shall rapidly increase our own military strength.

"'We shall exert every effort to help bring the full influence of the United Nations to bear on the situation in Korea."'

As it had already been decided in Cabinet and National Security Council, Truman made it very clear that further moves such as attacks on the Chinese mainland, blockades, or bombing, depended on U.N. reaction.

Then, in response to a question, Truman affirmed that the atom bomb still remained in the United States' arsenal of weapons. In its summary of news I December 1950, the New York Times said: The Truman press statement said the United Nations will fight … for justice and world peace, and we will if necessary use the atom bomb. He would give the authorization, and MacArthur would pick the targets, in accordance with U.S. military policy: CCF bases in Manchuria would be attacked, he added, if the U.N. brands Red China an aggressor. The President showed impatience with the slowness of Western Europe to rearm.

Within three hours, there was resulting explosion.

The Times of 1 December remarked: The President's mention of an atom bomb caused consternation and alarm in Britain and brought from France official disapproval. Most U.N. delegates were agreed that it would be politically disastrous to use the bomb in Asia.

Nothing so awakened the French Assembly as mention of the bomb. To the fear of the bomb lately has been added a fear of General MacArthur, who is regarded as impulsive and reckless in his reported desire to bomb Manchuria and risk extending the war.

A headline read: Britons dismayed by Truman's talk—Atlee will fly to Washington to discuss crisis with President.

The London Times editorialized: [Truman] touched upon the most sensitive fears and doubts of this age.…

Winston Churchill, in Commons, warned the West against involvement in Asia at the expense of Europe. The House cheered Prime Minister Atlee's announced night to Washington.

In Melbourne, Australia, where there were few friends of Red China, newspapers expressed the hope that diplomatic skill would avert a conflict with Communist China. The Melbourne Herald wrote: The Chinese can no longer be despised militarily. Their revolutionary leaders obviously command unity and loyalty which Chiang never attained.

Italian Communists and anti-Communists alike expressed deep fears of general war.

And papers all over the world stated that MacArthur should have halted the U.N. armies no farther north than the middle of North Korea, leaving a buffer between them and Manchuria.

Whatever else the press statement may have done, it cleared the air: the United States Government understood immediately where its major allies—indeed, the greater part of the world—stood on the China question. Above all else, the world wished to avoid general war, and atomic war in particular. That United Nations and allied thinking was not brought home forcefully to millions of Americans was due to the fact that apart from the Atlantic-seaboard area, few newspapers or other media printed or reflected foreign views.

For the first time the U.N. cloak that the United States Government had so expeditiously woven for its action in Korea became not a support, but a hindrance. The U.N. in June had been almost wholly responsive to American leadership, and the United States had chosen to implement its national policy under the aegis of the U.N., at the time a great moral victory. With the entry of Red China into the fighting, the sharp U.S. setback in the north, and the prospect of an enlarged war yawning ominously, the nations composing the U.N. suddenly became restive. American leadership, unfortunately, had lost a great deal of its prestige on the battlefield.

After 1 December 1950, the allies who had tripped unquestioningly into the never-never land would never again allow the United States an unlimited credit card, moral or otherwise. For by I December the vast majority of the member nations of the U.N. wanted "out" of the Korean debacle. Whatever the moral issues, few saw any profit in a continued war with Red China over the eventual fate of divided Korea. The smaller nations had been willing to follow the United States into a small conflict—a police action—against an aggressor as long as the fighting had a clear moral purpose and demanded few sacrifices of them. Now the earth was on the brink of general war, and the moral purpose of defeating Red China was not at all clear in European minds.

Five years after the close of the most destructive war in history, few nations were willing to risk atomic war for any reason short of immediate self-preservation.

The British prime minister, deeply worried, called at Washington to reassure himself of American policy. Other leaders did the same.

In the U.N., thirteen Arab-Asian nations sponsored a resolution asking for a cease-fire in Korea. On 14 December the General Assembly adopted it overwhelmingly. A three-man deputation—Pearson of Canada, Rau of India, and Entezam of Iran—tried vainly to make contact with the Chinese, who at that time were unwilling to discuss the matter except on their own terms.

But the smaller nations of the U.N. continued to press the matter. India's Sir Benegal Rau suggested that "Peiping was for peace"; India refused to consider any strong measure against Red China. The United Nations had been envisioned—however it was sold to the peoples of the world—not as a parliament of earth but as a controlling body on the questions of peace and war. Real power, through the institution of the veto, remained where it was in reality, in the hands of the great powers: America, Britain, China, the Soviet Union. The problem, as well as the tragedy of the United Nations organization, was that it had never been anticipated that the great powers at the end of World War 11 would have no community of interest.

The first U.N. action utilizing force was, in essence, against itself, for the Soviet Union, sponsor of North Korea, continued in membership. Only the fact that the U.S.S.R. was absent in June 1950 permitted the Security Council to take effective action.

American planners, painfully aware of this accident, strove o overcome such an impasse in the future. The powers of the Security Council—the voice of the big nations—were diluted to the extent of permitting the General Assembly to bypass the Council on certain grave issues. With U.S. sponsorship, such changes were made in the framework of the U.N.

In effect such changes meant that eventually the U.N. would pass, with constantly increasing membership, completely from big-power control. American planners, unfortunately, could not see they were tugging at the lid of Pandora's box. Some of them, probably, did not understand the political—and power—realities of the world they lived in.

In 1951, having wrapped its policy in the U.N. cloak, the United States could not, without being branded with hypocrisy, throw off what were now hampering folds. American policy would have to be worked out within the myriad conflicting policies of the U.N.

The majority of the U.N. wanted an end to the war, as soon as possible. The United States, whatever its own desires, would be forced to listen. Who calls the tune often has to pay the piper, whether he likes the music or not.

When President Truman made the decision to intervene in Korea—with general support—Dean Acheson said to him that the decision "might not always be so popular as it seemed at the moment."

Secretary of State Acheson, a much-maligned man, was soon proved to be a prophet, though his status resembled that of most prophets as far as honor in his own land was concerned. Acheson, always intensely anti-Communist, had always to be intensely practical. In the months following Korea, any American Secretary of State in addition to other qualifications needed the abilities of a door-to-door salesman of insurance. Acheson, an aristocrat, a brilliant mind, and a practical man, could never be an effective salesman of policy.

His policy was Truman's policy, as Truman said, but Acheson became the butt of all the frustration felt by the mass of the American people. The truth was that what the American people wanted was no longer—could be no longer—paramount in the world, once the United States chose to work in conjunction with the U.N. and its allies.

Someone had to sell this understanding to the people. The Truman Administration could never do so.

In Washington, in December 1950, there was political crisis.

On 15 December, after lengthy consultation and much argument, Truman declared a national emergency. For some American leaders, such as Senators Taft and Wherry, this was too much. For others, it was not nearly enough.

For as Representative Taber of New York told Truman, "The people were confused and upset."

What the people could not understand was, Was the United States at war or not?

It had massive forces in the field, killing, being killed, but life went on much as before. Men were being called from factory and field, but there was still "peace." There was war, obviously, but still there was not war as Americans had come to understand it.

Americans had been brought up to avoid war as the plague, but once in it, to pull all the stops. It had been almost a hundred years since they had fought a war on the far frontier or held the border for civilization, and the taste of those campaigns was still foul in their mouths.

They had been taught for generations that the use of war for reasons of national policy was wrong, and now that their government followed such a course, in the path of imperial Britain, they felt only anguish and frustration.

One of the men who felt the agony and the frustration most deeply was America's proconsul in the Far East, Supreme Commander Douglas MacArthur.

It is given to the President of the United States, with the advice and consent of the Senate, to conduct the foreign policy of the Republic. From the time of Athens and Republican Rome, no representative parliament has ever had much success with dealings beyond the water; there have been historians who claim that continued involvement of a people beyond its own frontiers inevitably produces Caesarism.

The jury on this question must be reported to be still out. At least, no Caesars were produced by the Korean conflict. Both potential Caesars were, in fact, humbled, one at the hands of his superiors, the other by his people. But first they collided, and the shock was felt around the world.

Douglas MacArthur, one of the most brilliant military minds America has yet produced, graduated from West Point at the turn of the century. He stemmed from a distinguished military family; his father was a lieutenant general and proconsul—of the Philippines—in his own right.

MacArthur was a product of the old, alienated American officer caste, but, like Dwight Eisenhower, he was never typical of that group. While Eisenhower came to embody all the virtues—and vices, to some—of the old-American bourgeoisie, remote from the hard-bitten cavalry of the sun-blasted plains, MacArthur's mind and heart, at the age of thirty-eight, were forged in the horror of the trenches of World War I.

At an age when most professionals looked forward to leaves or eagles, Douglas MacArthur wore general's stars. Yet, from the ghastly slaughter of 1917-1918 he retained a profound horror of the effects of war, as well as a never-faltering belief in the idealism that lay behind that war.

That slaughter he saw at close hand. He was decorated seven times by an awed government and people for valor in the field.

After what he had seen in the trenches, war could never again be a mere profession to Douglas MacArthur. He would continue to be a professional soldier, but forever afterward war to him would be an awful act, to be entered on only for the most transcendental of purposes.

In this feeling MacArthur was one with most of the nonmilitary intelligent men of his age. He had a profound hatred of war, but any war upon which he embarked must henceforth be a crusade. In no other way could the suffering be justified.

It would occur to few of that generation that wars fought for a higher purpose must always be the most hideous of all. It is desperately hard for men to accept that there is a direct path from the highest ideals to the torture chamber—for no man who accepts with his whole heart can fail equally to reject with his whole being.

In his feeling for war, MacArthur was a typical American of his school. He was one with Woodrow Wilson, whose pronouncements deeply influenced him, and he was one with Franklin Roosevelt. War was to be entered upon with sadness, with regret, but also with ferocity.

War was horrible, and whoever unleashed it must be smitten and destroyed, unto the last generation, so that war should arise no more.

When war is entered upon for the highest moral purpose, there can be no substitute for victory, short of betrayal of that purpose, and of the men who die.

In 1918, and 1941, and even in 1951, probably most Americans felt as felt Douglas MacArthur. Yet MacArthur, raised to the highest honors of the Republic, would remain an uncertain hero in the public mind. He was an aristocrat, if military, and he was a devout Christian—not a social Christian, but a weight-of-centuries Anglican to whom God stood close at hand; and near such men most Americans have always felt uncomfortable.

It was no accident that of all American military men, only MacArthur and Eisenhower, untypical of their caste, should be seriously considered for the Presidency, and that of the two only Eisenhower, more in the mainstream of American social tradition, should receive the office.

MacArthur, the oldest and the ranking of the hierarchy of generals, was not one of them. And though his thinking was close to that of the people, he was not one of them. It was ironic—and again no accident—that a generation unborn when MacArthur won every significant decoration on the field of battle that could be given by a grateful Republic should come to call him "Dugout Doug."

It was as well. Right or wrong, had Douglas MacArthur been a man of the people, and so minded, he might have overturned the Republic.

For now, in early 1951, two points of view concerning war entered collision course. One, MacArthur's, was that of Wilson, Roosevelt, George Marshall, and most of the older generation. War must never be an extension of politics; it must be jihad.

Such men recoil at the thought of nuclear war, but in general prepare for nothing else. A crusade, by its very nature, cannot be limited.

But in Korea, in 1950-1951, the United States was not fighting a holy war. Momentarily, and at MacArthur's urging, it had lost sight of its original goal and proceeded into the never-never land.

President Truman and his advisers, wrapped tightly now in the embracing U.N. cloak, would not enter the twilight zone again.

Now troops were being used as a counterpawn on the broader table of diplomacy, for a specific, limited purpose: the holding in check of expansionist Communism. The troops remained, fighting, because State argued that abandonment of Korea would be a political error irredeemable in Asia, even while the Pentagon, concerned for Europe, scraping the bottom of its strategic troop barrel, talked of ways to end the war "with honor."

To each group, the men about the President, and the men about MacArthur, the viewpoint of the other seem immoral. Collision was inevitable and necessary.

In December, Harry Truman dispatched Army Chief of Staff J. Lawton Collins to the Orient. Shortly afterward, Lightning Joe Collins returned and reported MacArthur's views to his chief.

The Supreme Commander, Collins said, saw three possible courses of American action.

One was to continue the war in Korea as before, under limiting restrictions. This meant no large-scale reinforcement of U.N. troops, no retaliatory measures against Red China, such as bombardment of Manchurian bases, naval blockade, or the use of Nationalist Chinese forces.

A second course was to enlarge the conflict by the bombing of the Chinese mainland, blockading the coast, and setting Chiang Kai-shek free, with American support, to fight both in Korea and in South China, giving Communist China more than it had bargained for.

The third course would be to get the CCF to agree to remain north of the 38th parallel, and to make an armistice upon that basis, under U.N. supervision.

MacArthur then told Collins he personally favored the second course. The first course, to him, was identical with surrender. He would, however, agree to the third, if it could be managed.

Harry Truman was deeply disturbed. His thinking and that of MacArthur were in wide divergence. Truman felt that Course Two would inevitably lead to general war—not only with China but also with Russia, which could not sit idly by while its Asian ally was humbled.

Truman wanted a combination of courses One and Three—the door would be held while a collective political agreement was hammered out.

He recognized that MacArthur, however, had a perfect right to make his own views known to his chief. But the problem soon arose that MacArthur began to make his views known to everyone.

On 19 December, MacArthur requested four additional divisions, for the defense of Japan. He began to ask for more and more, to prosecute the war. The requests were impossible, short of mobilization. The U.S. Army had one division, the 82nd Airborne, in strategic reserve. NATO was just getting underway in Europe. It was unthinkable that U.S. troops be stripped from that area.

There were hardly any allied divisions in Europe worthy of the name, and they dare not be moved, even had their governments been willing—which they were not.

About the only move that could be made was to increase the ROK Army by from 200,000 to 300,000 men, armed with rifles, BAR's, carbines, and submachine guns. About this, MacArthur was not sanguine. He preferred to arm the Japanese.

On 29 December MacArthur sent a message to the Joint Chiefs, as he had before, that he desired permission to blockade the China coast and attack airfields in Manchuria. He stated he did not fear the Chinese would be provoked—MacArthur considered the United States already at war with China. He also stated that if his wishes were not granted, the Korean peninsula should be evacuated.

Summed up, Douglas MacArthur held that the U.S. should attempt to win, and win big, or get out.

On 9 January, after carefully clearing it with the President, the JCS sent MacArthur the following directive: to continue to defend in Korea, to continue to inflict losses on the CCF, and to withdraw only if essential to save his command.

MacArthur asked for clarification. He said he could not hold in Korea and protect Japan at the same time. He stated that U.N. troops could not continue to operate under the limiting restrictions without prohibitive losses. If international political reasons forced a continuance on the present terms, then the JCS—and the President—should be prepared to accept grave consequences.

General of the Army George Catlett Marshall hand- carried this message to Truman.

Truman became very disturbed. What MacArthur was telling him, in essence, was that the policy decided upon by the National Security Council, the JCS, and the President was not feasible.

Events were to prove MacArthur wrong, but at this time Truman could only give the general's views grave consideration. He called a meeting of the National Security Council on 12 January. What was decided here, mainly, was to inform MacArthur of the international political realities of the world situation. The United States had embarked on a course of collective security, through its allies and the U.N., and it had no intention of "going it alone."

Feelers among allies and U.N. had revealed not one government willing to back MacArthur's course.

On 13 January 1951 Truman wired to MacArthur:

"I want you to know that the situation in Korea is receiving the utmost attention here and that: our efforts are concentrated upon finding the right decisions on this matter of the gravest importance to the future of America and to the survival of free peoples everywhere.

"I wish in this telegram to let you have my views as to our basic national and international purposes in continuing the resistance to aggression in Korea. We need your judgment as to the maximum effort which could reasonably be expected from the United Nations forces under your command to support the resistance to aggression which we are trying rapidly to organize on a world-wide basis. This present telegram is not to be taken in any sense as a directive. Its purpose is to give you something of what is in our minds regarding the political factors.


A successful resistance in Korea would serve the following important purposes:


"(a) To demonstrate that aggression will not be accepted by us or by the United Nations and to provide a rallying point around which the spirits and energies of the free world can be mobilized to meet the world-wide threat which the Soviet Union now poses.

"(b) To deflate the dangerously exaggerated political and military prestige of Communist China which now threatens to undermine the resistance of non-Communist Asia and to consolidate the hold of Communism on China itself.

"(c) To afford more time for and to give direct assistance to the organization of non-Communist resistance in Asia, both outside and inside China.

"(d) To carry out our commitments of honor to the South Koreans and to demonstrate to the world that the friendship of the United States is of inestimable value in time of adversity.

"(e) To make possible a far more satisfactory peace settlement for Japan and to contribute greatly to the post-treaty security position of Japan in relation to the continent.

"(f) To lend resolution to many countries not only in Asia but also in Europe and the Middle East who are now living within the shadow of Communist power and to let them know that they need not now rush to come to terms with Communism on whatever terms they can get, meaning complete submission.

"(g) To inspire those who may be called upon to fight against great odds if subjected to a sudden onslaught by the Soviet Union or by Communist China.

"(h) To lend point and urgency to the rapid build-up of the defenses of the western world.

"(i) To bring the United Nations through its first great effort on collective security and to produce a free-world coalition of incalculable value to the national security interests of the United States.

"(j) To alert the peoples behind the Iron Curtain that their masters are bent upon wars of aggression and that this crime will organization but is also the nations whom we would desperately need to count on as allies in be resisted by the free world.


Our course of action at this time should be such as to consolidate the great majority of the United Nations. This majority is not merely part of the the event the Soviet Union moves against us. Further, pending the build-up of our national strength, we must act with great prudence in so far as extending the area of hostilities is concerned. Steps which might in themselves be fully justified and which might lend some assistance to the campaign in Korea would not be beneficial if they thereby involved Japan or Europe in large-scale hostilities.


We recognize, of course, that continued resistance might not be militarily possible with the limited forces with which you are being called upon to meet large Chinese armies. Further, in the present world situation, your forces must be preserved as an effective instrument for the defense of Japan and elsewhere. However, some of the important purposes mentioned above might be supported, if you should think it practicable, and advisable, by continued resistance from off-shore islands of Korea, particularly from Cheju-do, if it becomes impracticable to hold an important portion of Korea itself. In the worst case, it would be important that, if we must withdraw from Korea, it be clear to the world that that course is forced upon us by military necessity and that we shall not accept the result politically or militarily until the aggression has been rectified.


In reaching a final decision about Korea, I shall have to give constant thought to the main threat from the Soviet Union and to the need for a rapid expansion of our armed forces to meet this great danger.


I am encouraged to believe that the free world is getting a much clearer and realistic picture of the dangers before us and that the necessary courage and energy will be forthcoming. Recent proceedings in the United Nations have disclosed a certain amount of confusion and wishful thinking, but I believe that most members have been actuated by a desire to be absolutely sure that all possible avenues to peaceful settlement have been fully explored. I believe that the great majority is now rapidly consolidating and that the result will be an encouraging and formidable combination in defense of freedom.


The entire nation is grateful for your splendid leadership in the difficult struggle in Korea and for the superb performance of your forces under the most difficult circumstances.

"[s] Harry S Truman"

In brief, Truman informed the FECOM commander that United States policy was based on the premise that the peace of the world could be attained only through collective security and that, while continuing the war in Korea under the present circumstances, the world was getting a clear and realistic picture of the dangers it faced despite some wishful thinking in the U.N.

The United States, Truman told MacArthur in essence, must continue to defend South Korea, while at the same time it consolidated the defense of Europe. The major potential foe was still Soviet Russia, and Europe still the world's great prize. Any measure that provided relief for the United States forces in Korea, but set back United States support or strength in Europe, would be imprudent. If the United States began a unilateral war with Red China, it stood an excellent chance of fatally rupturing the embryonic North Atlantic Treaty Organization which for some years had been a goal of its policy.

MacArthur was told to hold the frontier so that the tribes of the interior could continue to organize, and to forget about carrying the war to the barbarians.

Truman's policy was not only dictated by the reliance upon collective security and the reluctance of the United Nations, but by Western weakness. America had the bomb, but no divisions. There was no barrier in middle Europe that could prevent its being overrun by the massive Red Army.

Until such a barrier could be built, under NATO, Washington would never breathe easy. It would never favor involvement in Asia. It would continue to eye such involvement suspiciously, looking for a Russian trick.

MacArthur might disagree with such a policy—but he could hardly fail to get the message.

And there, for many days, while the Eighth Army righted itself and began to batter its painful way back up the peninsula, the matter rested. Oddly, it was U.N. success that brought the divergence between MacArthur and the Commander in Chief to a head.

By March 1951, the CCF had been halted, hurt, and forced back. It was apparent that it would soon be forced completely out of the Taehan Minkuk. The lines would then stand where they had in June 1950, and where they had stood in October. But this time there was no exaltation in Washington, no confidence in cheap victory. With each of its allies screaming for an end to the war, now deeply aware of the dangers involved in humbling China, Washington was willing to negotiate.

The New York Times, which in December 1950 had reported Paris and London Unite to Seek Curb on Korean War, in February 1951 carried a highly significant headline: U.S. to Seek Peace, Spokesmen Say—A Reversal of Policy. Well-placed men in government, who could not be named, stated to reporters that the old policy of October 1950, seeking the defeat of the aggressor, was dead.

Military reports indicated that there was a strong possibility that the CCF in Korea could be brought to ruin by continued offensive action. But would the collapse of the CCF, and the resultant loss of face in Asia, force the U.S.S.R. to act?

The answer will never be known, for the United States had had enough of challenges.

On 20 March Truman, Dean Acheson, Marshall, and the Joint Chiefs discussed the possibilities of peace in Korea, and then informed MacArthur:

"State Department planning a Presidential announcement shortly that with clearing of bulk of South Korea of aggressors, the United Nations now preparing to discuss conditions of settlement in Korea. United Nations feeling exists that further diplomatic efforts toward settlement should be made before any advance with major forces north of the 38th parallel. Time will be required to determine diplomatic reactions and permit new negotiations that may develop. Recognizing that parallel has no military significance, State has asked Joint Chiefs of Staff what authority you should have to permit sufficient freedom of action for next few weeks to provide security for United Nations forces and maintain contact with enemy. Your recommendation desired."

MacArthur sent a message back that no further restrictions should be placed on his command, since those already in force—no bombing of Manchurian bases or diversions against the Chinese mainland—precluded the possibility of clearing North Korea anyway, in his mind.

Then Truman, with members of State and Defense, drew up a presidential announcement. In draft it read:

"I make the following statement as Chief Executive of the Government requested by the United Nations to exercise the Unified Command in Korea, and after full consultation with United Nations Governments contributing combat forces in support of the United Nations in Korea.

"United Nations forces in Korea are engaged in repelling the aggressions committed against the Republic of Korea.…

"The aggressors have been driven back with heavy losses to the general vicinity from which the unlawful attack was first launched last June.

"There remains the problem of restoring international peace and security in the area in accordance with the terms of the Security Council resolution of June 27, 1950.…

"There is a basis for restoring peace and security in the area which should be acceptable to all nations which sincerely desire peace.

"The Unified Command is prepared to enter into arrangements which would conclude the fighting.… Such arrangements would open the way for a broader settlement for Korea, including the withdrawal of foreign forces.…

"The Korean people are entitled to peace. They are entitled to determine their political and other institutions by their own choice.… What is needed is peace, in which the United Nations can use its resources in the creative tasks of reconstruction.…

"A prompt settlement of the Korean problem would greatly reduce international tensions in the Far East and would open the way for the consideration of other problems.…"

The announcement said, in effect, that the United States, acting for the U.N., was willing to settle, without threats, recrimination, or talk of punishment. The Communists had tried a gambit, and failed. The U.N. had tried one of their own, and had also failed. No one had really lost—but no one had really won. The United States said that the status quo ante was quite all right with it, if the Communists agreed.

Thousands upon thousands of men, women, and children, civilians and soldiers were dead, crippled, or homeless. But the frontier had been held. After all the fighting, and suffering, and dying, all was as it had been. Nothing had been settled—except that now each side knew the other had the will to fight, in defense of what it considered vital interests.

The West better understood the East. It was to be hoped that the reverse held true. At least that much had been accomplished.

The Truman Announcement was the product of a new group of men in the American Government, whose like had not been in government since the War Between the States. These: men had no hope of, nor interest in, making the world safe for democracy, or of destroying evil. They were vitally concerned with the continued good of the United States, and with preserving some semblance of order in the world, if not democracy.

In the seventh year of the Nuclear Age, they accepted the fact that each of the two opposing power systems held an effective veto over the other. They would not, except as a last extremity, accept general war.

They would fight; they would reluctantly spill the blood of their nation's young men, but if possible, only in limited fashion, and only to prove a point to the enemy.

They tended to be level-headed, pragmatic, cynical of sweeping conclusions in any direction, with complete awareness of the dreadful complexities of the modern political world. They did not envision surrender. But they also saw no clear-cut answers, in a world that held only awesome problems.

It was typical that many of these men, like Dean Acheson, wore London suits, for they had inherited the mantle the British Lion had worn a hundred years earlier.

Many of them, strangely, often had the name of Woodrow Wilson on their lips, as they talked to the public. This was ironic, because a Wilson would have vomited them forth from his Administration. Like a great many of the American people, the crusader Wilson would never have understood them.

Nor did General of the Army Douglas MacArthur, who had come to full maturity in Wilson's time.

The Truman Announcement was coordinated with every friendly government on the globe, but it was never issued. For General of the Army MacArthur, America's Supreme Commander in the field, in a statement almost unprecedented in American history, beat Harry Truman to the punch.

On 24 March 1951, with no word first to Washington, he issued his own pronouncement from Tokyo:

"Operations continue according to schedule and plan. We have now substantially cleared South Korea of organized Communist forces. It is becoming increasingly evident that the heavy destruction along the enemy's lines of supply, caused by our round-the-clock massive air and naval bombardment, has left his troops in the forward battle area deficient in requirements to sustain his operations.…

"Of even greater significance than our tactical successes has been the clear revelation that this new enemy, Red China, of such exaggerated and vaunted military power, lacks the industrial capacity to provide.… crucial items necessary to the conduct of modern war. He lacks the manufacturing base … he cannot provide … tanks, heavy artillery, and other refinements science has introduced into the conduct of military campaigns. Formerly his great numerical potential might well have filled this gap, but with the development of existing methods of mass destruction, numbers alone do not off-set … such deficiencies…

"These military weaknesses have been clearly and definitely revealed since Red China entered upon its undeclared war in Korea. Even under the inhibitions which now restrict the activity of the United Nations forces and the corresponding military advantages which accrue to Red China, it has shown its complete inability to accomplish by force of arms the conquest of Korea. The enemy, therefore, must by now be painfully aware that a decision of the United Nations to depart from its tolerant effort to contain the war to the area of Korea, through an expansion of our military operations to its coastal areas and interior bases, would doom Red China to the risk of imminent military collapse. These basic facts being established, there should be no insuperable difficulty in arriving at decisions on the Korean problem if the issues are resolved on their own merits, without being burdened by extraneous matters not directly related to Korea.…

"The Korean nation and people, which have been so cruelly ravaged, must not be sacrificed. This is a paramount concern.… Within the area of my authority as the military commander, however, it would be needless to say that I stand ready at any time to confer in the field with the commander in chief of the enemy forces … to find … means whereby realization of the political objectives of the United Nations in Korea, to which no nation may justly take exceptions, might be accomplished without further bloodshed."

Right or wrong, this was a remarkable statement to have been issued by an American proconsul in the field. It was more than a statement of military policy; it was a political act. It disregarded Washington's instructions for FECOM to abstain from declarations on foreign policy. It flouted the announced policy of the U.N.

MacArthur had delivered Red China an ultimatum. He had hinted that the full power of the United States and its allies might be brought to bear against the Chinese homeland; threat was redolent throughout the discussion of Chinese weakness, and it was a threat that MacArthur obviously relished.

When Truman read it, he went white. MacArthur's announcement was a challenge to the authority of the President, under the Constitution, to make foreign policy.

Considering MacArthur's high office, his pronouncement crashed into allied chancelleries like eight-inch howitzer shells. The wires began to burn to Washington. Was a shift in American policy imminent?

Had the United States decided to punish Red China?

The Norwegian ambassador called at State, demanding to know what lay behind this "pronunciamento."

At noon, Saturday, 24 March, Truman conferred with Acheson, Robert Lovett, and Dean Rusk. It was undoubtedly a bitter and passionate conference, even among men not given to stampede.

On 6 December, when the U.N. had begun to grow restive, Truman had sent a directive to FECOM, instructing that all public statements be cleared through Washington. Truman now read this order, and asked Rusk and Acheson if there could be any doubt as to its meaning.

They agreed there was none in their minds.

Truman then told Lovett to get a priority message to FECOM, telling MacArthur to shut up. Truman had long understood that MacArthur disagreed with him, but he had not understood the extent.

Nor could Truman really understand MacArthur. Truman could not be sure but that the general was playing for the gallery, trying to embarrass the President, and as political leader of the nation Truman found this intolerable. MacArthur was challenging traditional civilian supremacy in government, and Truman was not at all certain but that Caesar was speaking from beyond the Rubicon.

MacArthur was no Caesar, with immense political ambitions. He was a servant of the Republic who felt so strongly that the course of the Administration, eschewing triumph over the transgressor, was immoral that he had put himself into public opposition. He was trying to influence policy.

Under the Constitution of the Untied States, no soldier has that privilege.

Soldiers are brought up to tell the truth, and to take positive action. Since politicians, in the main, regard neither of these with great affection—they must forever please the people, regardless of what is true or what needs to be done—soldiers and political men are often in conflict.

A political leader who takes strong action, who does not equivocate, dally, or try the impossible task of pleasing everyone, has usually nothing to fear from soldiers, even in authoritarian lands. It is the leaders of the Fourth Republic, the Frondizis, the Roman Senate, the men who try to walk a tightrope, who have been intolerable to the soldiery.

Military men, who are willing to risk their lives, have small sympathy with anyone unwilling to risk his office. While politics may be the art of the possible, war is often the art of the impossible.

Douglas MacArthur, as American as Woodrow Wilson or Cordell Hull, had not purposely decided to challenge civilian control of the military—but the result of his act could be that this institutional safeguard was in danger.

Harry Truman, however history will regard him, was one of the most unpopular and unrespected of Presidents. If the people and the Congress rose behind MacArthur, supported his views, Harry Truman and his Administration were in trouble.

Sometime between 24 March and 5 April 1951, Harry Truman resolved to relieve MacArthur of his command. When the next evidence of MacArthur's insubordination arose, Truman's mind was already made up—but what occurred on 5 April 1951 in effect allowed Truman no other course.

On that date Joe Martin, the leader of the opposition in the House, rose and read a personal letter from MacArthur. Martin, of Massachusetts, had long been an isolationist, clinging beyond 1941 to the old school of American thought, much like Taft and Wherry in the Senate.

The old school of thought was honest and sincere, but contradictory. Its major premises were that America should avoid trouble overseas—but that if it arose, should smash it, without counting any cost. No entangling alliances should be made; there should be no involvement in foreign politics; but if the United States were confronted with evil opposition, if it were attacked, then it should rise in righteous wrath.

The old school was highly suspicious of the military, and preferred to cut arms spending to the bone.

There was nothing wrong with this school of thought—Americans had cleaved to it for generations, and as late as 1941 more than 70 percent of them had been against entry in world affairs—except that there was now no one to hold the far frontier. There was no Army of France, no British Navy, to strive, morally or immorally, for order in the world.

Representative Joseph W. Martin, a sincere man, stood before the House on 5 April 1951. He had written MacArthur in early March, saying, among other things, that he considered it sheer folly not to use Nationalist Chinese troops in Korea. He had asked for MacArthur's comments, and now he read them aloud:

"'I am most grateful for your note of the eighth forwarding me a copy of your address of February 12.…

"'My views and recommendations with respect to the situation created by Red China's entry into war against us in Korea have been submitted to Washington in most complete detail. Generally these views are well known and understood, as they follow the conventional pattern of meeting force with maximum counterforce as we have never failed to do in the past. Your view with respect to the utilization of the Chinese forces on Formosa is in conflict with neither logic nor this tradition.

"'It seems strangely difficult for some to realize that here in Asia is where the Communist conspirators have elected to make their play for global conquest, and that we have joined the issue thus raised on the battlefield; that here we fight Europe's war with arms while the diplomats there still fight it with words; that if we lose this war to Communism in Asia the fall of Europe is inevitable, win it and Europe most probably would avoid war and yet preserve freedom. As you point out, we must win.

"'There is no substitute for victory.’"

Thus, two views of war, the traditional American, the view of Wilson, Roosevelt, Marshall, and MacArthur, clashed head on with that of the new, the Great Power American, the view of Acheson, Rusk, Harriman, and Bradley.

George Catlett Marshall, one of the most splendid of men, had once said, discussing the possible entry of American troops into the Balkans rather than Western Europe in 1944, that such a move would be political rather than military in nature, might cost 100,000 more casualties, and would delay the destruction of the Reich. He would not allow political considerations to change the course of military operations.

And America met force with counterforce, devoting all her energies to the destruction of evil as embodied in the Reich, and her troops did not meet those of her Russian ally on the Vistula or the Danube. A generation of American statesmen have had to wrestle with the result.

Field Marshall Erwin Rommel once said he had no real interest in logistics. He would do the fighting; how the gasoline, tanks, and ammunition reached him was somebody else's concern.

Both Marshall and Rommel, splendid men, did not really understand the world they lived in. A war can no more be successfully fought without political concerns for the future than a panzer can roll without gas.

In 1951, defeat of Red China, whether it would have brought on general war with Russia or not, would have alienated the world. In such a world, America could then have led as Hitler led, or not at all.

History, unfortunately, is never concerned too much with where morality lies.

Wherever it lay, whoever was right, and who was wrong, MacArthur's letter to Joe Martin was insubordination.

Truman hit the ceiling. He called a meeting with Acheson, Bradley, Marshall, and Harriman. On 6 April he asked these men bluntly what they felt should be done. All were agreed that the Administration faced a serious threat.

It took an hour to hammer out the decision.

Averell Harriman, head of the Mutual Security Agency, stated that MacArthur should have been relieved two years ago. Harriman was unhappy with MacArthur's handling of some occupation matters in Japan, where he had also opposed Washington policy.

Acheson, moustached and deliberative, said he believed that MacArthur had to be relieved but that he thought it should be done very carefully. "If you relieve MacArthur, you will have the biggest fight of your Administration," he said.

Omar Bradley, head of the JCS, looked upon the question as a matter of military discipline. A true centurion, Bradley saw a clear case of insubordination; he felt MacArthur deserved relief.

Secretary of Defense George Cattlett Marshall counseled caution. He was reluctant to discipline MacArthur; it might make trouble with Congress.

President Truman let these men talk, then and later. He did not advise them that he had already made up his mind and that the "ayes had it." MacArthur would be relieved. Truman advised Marshall to reread the file of communications between Tokyo and Washington.

On 7 April Marshall reported back to Blair House that he now felt MacArthur should have been fired long ago.

On Sunday, 8 April, the Joint Chiefs of Staff concurred.

On Monday, with everyone in agreement, Truman then told them that he had made his decision after MacArthur's "pronunciamento" of 24 March. At 3:15 that afternoon, the President signed an order relieving MacArthur of all his several commands, and replacing him with Lieutenant General Matthew B. Ridgway.

Truman's intention was that this notice of relief be given MacArthur through Secretary of the Army Frank Pace, then in the Far East. Dean Acheson sent the orders through Korean Ambassador Muccio, with instructions that Pace was to proceed immediately to Tokyo, to deliver them in person.

But Pace could not be reached; he was up near the Eighth Army front, firing a howitzer in the company of General Ridgway. One of the traditions of modern war that had grown up was that distinguished visitors be taken to a firing battery of heavy artillery, suitably behind the front, and there be allowed to fire "one at the enemy," which made for a good picture and gave a feeling of active participation, all without untidy risk.

Pace could not be reached, and the message was too hot to be bandied about in lesser hands.

Later, Matt Ridgway, who had spent all afternoon in Frank Pace's company without ever learning that he was already Supreme Commander, Far East, remarked that Mr. Pace had an odd sense of humor. It did not occur to General Ridgway that Mr. Pace was as ignorant of the fact as he.

Truman then sent word to John Foster Dulles to go to Japan and inform the Japanese Yoshida Government that the change would affect them in no way. While Dulles prepared to emplane, Omar Bradley dashed into Blair House, visibly excited.

There had been a leak, Bradley said, and a Chicago paper was going to print the story of MacArthur's relief the next morning, the 11th.

A President—any President—hates to be scooped almost more than anything else. More than once such a fear has changed the course of history, and now Harry Truman decided that courtesy be damned, he could not wait until Frank Pace finished getting his kicks gallivanting around the front.

MacArthur would get his notice over the wire, at the same time everyone else in the world got it. And so he did.

At 0100, 11 April, Truman's press secretary gave a group of grousing, sleepy-eyed reporters a presidential release:

"With deep regret, I have concluded that General of the Army Douglas MacArthur is unable to give his whole-hearted support to the policies of the United States Government and of the United Nations.… I have, therefore, relieved General MacArthur of his commands and have designated Lieutenant General Matthew B. Ridgway as his successor.

"Full and vigorous debate on matters of national policy is a vital element in the constitutional system.… It is fundamental, however, that military commanders must be governed by the policies and directives issued to them.… in time of crisis, the consideration is particularly compelling.

"General MacArthur's place in history as one of our greatest commanders is fully established. The Nation owes him a debt of gratitude for the distinguished and exceptional service he has rendered.… For that reason I repeat my regret at the necessity for the action I feel compelled to take in his case."

In the free chancelleries of Europe there was joy. As an indication of how deeply and consistently almost all of America's allies felt on the subject of MacArthur, at the front in Korea British battalions staged an impromptu celebration, and other U.N. units fired their guns in the air.

In the United States, most of whose people were not sure what was going on, there was shock.

That night Truman went on the air, explaining his course to the American public: "The free nations have united their strength in an effort to prevent a third world war. That war can come if the Communist leaders want it to come. But this nation and its allies will not be responsible for its coming."

There is no question but that there was an element of wishful thinking even in Truman's stand. Collective security had a fine sound, but it was still little more than a word; it would still be the United States, and the United States alone, that held the far frontier. No one else had the will or the power.

China would not be punished for its transgression. Evil would continue to exist; it would even be allowed to prosper, if it could. Peace, if and when it came, would not be moral but pragmatic.

The door would be held, and men would continue to die, not for victory, but for time.

There are men who said that the task was merely postponed and that it would be far harder in the future. There are men who said the United States should have won, or got out. History may prove them right.

But while a civilization lives, it may hope—as long as the far frontier, whether it be Korea or Berlin, is held.

General of the Army MacArthur took the news, which came to him as a slap in the face, calmly, and with good cheer. When Matt Ridgway reported to him at the Dai Ichi on 12 April, he was quiet, composed, and entirely helpful and friendly. Ridgway could ascertain no trace of bitterness.

Matt Ridgway personally did not feel a drive to the Yalu, or an enlargement of the war, was worth the cost. As a soldier, he did not question the President's right to do what he had done. But out of the loyalty he held in his heart for MacArthur, he was angry that the dismissal had been done so summarily.

No general, even those who disagreed with, stood in awe of, or disliked MacArthur, could feel happy at the outcome of the Case of the Haberdasher and the General.

But even these, who were with MacArthur, and even Truman, only the nation's servants, had to agree that the Republic never stood stronger.

On 11 April a violent storm broke over much of the front in Korea. It snowed, hailed in some sections, and a howling wind blew, leveling tents and stinging the eyes of the soldiers who now heard the news of the historic dismissal.

As the sky darkened and the earth seemed to shudder, one soldier remarked, "Say, do you suppose MacArthur was God, after all?"

Everybody smiled, and then the storm was gone. The war went on.

But MacArthur was not God. He was not even Caesar, as Truman had half feared. Caesar, recalled, brought his army back to Rome; MacArthur, an erect, brilliant, but an old, old man, returned across the lonely Pacific almost alone.

And the storm broke across America, violent, emotional, and as indecisive as the one that had whipped the Korean front. Where MacArthur went, millions cheered him. But even those who screamed in the crowds were not sure what they were screaming for, or against.

Men wrote Congress by the thousands, but from the letters came mostly emotion, and not much sense. Sometimes it is necessary for men to scream against a world they never made, and cannot control.

The general went before the houses of Congress, and there he spoke. Men from Fresno to Piccadilly, who had never heard MacArthur speak, who knew him only as a legend, stood transfixed at his eloquence, as it was broadcast across the world.

It was here, perhaps, that General of the Army Douglas MacArthur, soldier, aristocrat, man of God, had his greatest moment. He spoke, and he stated his case, but he did not sound the tocsin of revolt. What might have been public disgrace to a lesser man he turned into personal triumph.

There are such things as great men. Some are born, or make themselves, as Douglas MacArthur, and some, like Harry Truman, are made by the Constitution.

The storm broke, and then, like MacArthur, it faded away.

Power, after all, still stood on Pennsylvania Avenue. There was never any real possibility of congressional revolt centering around the general. The President, after all, was leader of the Democrats. They might gleefully slaughter his domestic program—after 1948 Truman got not one Fair Deal measure through Congress—but these same men had no desire to tear their party in shreds, however they felt about China.

And the leaders of the increasingly powerful Republican opposition—Bob Taft, Wherry, and Joe Martin—could hardly rally behind the general, even had he raised the standard of revolt. More than anything else, these men really wanted to get out of Korea entirely, not to expand the war into Central Asia.

It was ironic that those who screamed the loudest on MacArthur's relief were the former isolationists, and those who had consistently voted down or pared every military budget.

There was frustration in the spring of 1951, but no change of policy. The world had changed, and America was being forced to change with it. Containment, as developed by the Truman Administration, was not a satisfying answer. Millions disliked or distrusted it, but could put forth no better course. There were frustration and trauma.

The majority could no longer accept isolation as a way of life. And only the paranoid saw a true solution in atomic war.

There was nothing left but to return to the checkerboard, and to play the dangerous game.

MacArthur faded away in retirement; Ridgway soon proved, bluff paratrooper that he was, that he would not be a bull in the China shop of the Dai Ichi.

In the soggy, just-turning-green hills of Korea, the war went on.

First Lieutenant Leonard F. Morgan, of the Army 1st Base Post Office, arrived at Hungnam, North Korea, 12 December 1950. Morgan was an Adjutant General's Corps officer who had enlisted in 1938 and worked his way through the ranks. And over the years he had come to regard the flowing of the mails as seriously as any postman.

But at Hungnam, with the Marines and soldiers of X Corps streaming down out of the frozen hills for evacuation, Morgan was told politely but firmly that this was no time to set up in business. And just as firmly, he was ordered onto an LST for shipment to Pusan.

At Pusan, the 1st Base Post Office was billeted at the old Agricultural College Building, called universally by the troops "Pusan U." And here the P.O. had to wait until the lines got straightened out once more, and the mails could flow.

Then, on 5 February, Morgan, a small, dark, serious officer, at thirty-eight a bit grizzled for his rank, was told to take twelve enlisted men up to Suwon by air. He was to take tents and stoves and a minimum amount of postal equipment, mostly fixed credit—postal stamps.

He got into Suwon seventy-two hours after the Chinese had cleared it. It was cold as hell, with snow all over the ground, and now Morgan found out what it was like to be in what the Army called a bastard unit.

He arrived with a few tents but no mess facilities, no vehicles, or anything else. And there were no combat men in the Army Postal Unit; it strained their ability to get the tents up.

Fortunately for Morgan, he ran into Captain Bond of the 25th Division Quartermaster Company, in whose area the new APU was to be located. And Bond was a good man to know.

"I've got a big squad tent for your men, and I can feed you," Bond said. "We'll get you some litters from the Medical Company to sleep on."

Shivering in their borrowed tent, the boys of the APU decided war was hell. But as Leonard Morgan told them, "The mail must go through."

Morgan himself carried $5,000 worth of postage stamps, which he kept chained to his cot post.

But at Suwon, he dragged out some fifty-five-gallon oil drums, made a platform, and put up a sign that he was open for business. There were some 88,000 American troops in the area, from the 2nd, 3rd, 1st Cavalry, and 25th divisions, plus the Air Force. The mail came in, in truckloads.

Day and night now, handling mail and the Stars and Stripes, Morgan's men were kept busy. Things might be tough in the rear areas, but the mail went through.

For several hours after capture at Kunu-ri, the troops guarding Sergeant Charles B. Schlichter and the other men from his medical company marched the exhausted prisoners north. Finally, they herded them into a North Korean farmhouse, where they were allowed to rest till dark.

The men who were wounded had received no medical treatment, except for the little they could give themselves. One of the surgeons with the party, an American major, declared he had been an administrator for so long he was not up on the latest treatment. He was able to do very little to help.

With dark, the chilled, miserable men were forced outside. And now, from sundown to sunup, they were marched north. At dawn they staggered into another Korean farmhouse, where they were allowed to lie soddenly until the sun sank once more.

They received one meal a day, a handful of corn boiled in water. But all of them had been eating good United States rations, and as yet the cold and hunger hadn't really bothered them.

The single daily meal was fed to them in their canteen cups. Some men had lost or thrown their mess gear away. These ate out of their caps, or from their cupped hands, like animals.

And each day at dusk they were forced out into the stinging, freezing wind, to march north until light broke in the east. The Communists moved them by night, because they feared the United Nations air power, which still ranged over the whole of North Korea despite the retreat of the land armies; and they kept the prisoners on the road because they had taken far more POW's than had been anticipated, and they did not know what else to do with them.

For more than twenty nights, until Christmas 1950, they kept the POW's from Kunu-ri and other points marching over the hills, in circles, gradually bearing toward the Manchurian border.

Under the terrible pressure of those night marches, the meager diet, and the brutal cold, some of the American soldiers began to give up. Soon all were exhausted; many were sick.

On Christmas night, while people back home were recuperating from Christmas dinner and drinking eggnog, the men with Schlichter—now grown to several hundred—were marched over what seemed like the longest, highest mountain in Korea.

Worn out, miserable, hopeless now, several of the American POW's started to cry. One young boy gave up completely. He told Schlichter, "Sergeant, I can't go on."

Schlichter tried to argue him into continuing. But the boy refused to move. The guards came—and they were very considerate. They did not shoot or bayonet the boy, but brought a sled.

All night long, up the mountain and down its far side, other men took turns dragging the man who refused to march.

In the dawn, when the stooped, limping party halted under the harsh command of their guards, the face of the man who had been pulled on the sled was white with frost. He had frozen to death during the night.

The next day, the group of POW's arrived at a bleak, deserted bauxite mine. Here, in the little squalid huts that made up the old mining camp, the Americans were sequestered, some forty men to a hut. The valley was in no sense a true POW camp, with barbed wire, sentry posts, and the like. But it was surrounded by cruel mountains, and the guards stood about with ready guns.

As the long, bedraggled, stubble-faced column weaved its way into the mining valley, men failing out at each hut a lean collie dog ran up and down the column, barking happily. As the dog came up to sniff the strange Americans, Charles Schlichter held out: a hand to the friendly animal, soothing it.

That night, Schlichter and the men in his hut ate roast dog. The other men let Schlichter, who did the honors, have the largest piece.

Later, huddled in the tiny huts, the Americans found they had to lie down twenty to a side, with their booted feet interlaced. There was so little room that they had to lie hip to hip, pressed tight against each other.

Their hips and elbows became raw before the night was over—and they also discovered something else: if a man wanted to shift his position or turn over, he could not do so without waking every other man on his side of the room.

They slept. Men who had been marched forty miles a night for almost a month, who had been fed only a ball of boiled cracked corn once a day, and who had had only fistfuls of dirty snow to drink as they stumbled along, fell down, pressed against each other, and went to sleep. Most of them were ill—with malnutrition, dysentery, untreated combat wounds. Most of them were hopeless. Some of them were already a little crazy.

Still, they were Americans, and still men. It was here, in this dirty mining camp that came to be called Death Valley, that the Chinese accomplished a terrible thing.

Here, little by little, the Communists took away their manhood.

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